The recent expression of awareness on the part of the Sarbananda Sonowal Government about the potentiality of tourism in Assam and certain measures, like selection of a brand ambassador and budget provisions on the anvil in the way of giving exposure to the State in the field of domestic and international tourism, is indeed an encouraging move. Assam, even in the second half of the Second decade of the 21st century, is a scantly exposed and poorly projected part of India. Despite the fact that the Assamese people as a whole are known for their generosity and hospitality and the fact that Assam with its natural bounty is comparable to many other places of the country and the globe that are thriving on the inflow of tourists, both domestic and international, Assam unfortunately features only too poorly in the tourism map of the country with only a meagre share of inflow of tourists. Assam has solid potentiality of tourism of multiple genres. With natural beauty and with attractions of varied nature like wildlife, tea plantations, archaeological and religious attractions as tourist destinations, the State if provided with adequate infrastructure can be a destination comparable to the States that have a huge turnout of domestic and international tourists and consequently is sure to achieve a huge turnover as earning from tourism. Assam as of now even fails to find its place among the first 100 States of the country despite huge potential.
Personally, while on outings to various States of the country on a holiday or on business trips, one thing that strikes most in one’s mind is that Assam lacks exposure. People Outside the State are still either uninformed or misinformed about the region. Questions like whether one requires a passport to visit Assam, coming from a Mumbaikar or an average Delhite, cannot or should not put us in dismay because it is a proof that we have not done enough to project our state outside her geographical boundaries. This is where the new State Government’s move to engage Bollywood actor as the tourism brand ambassador is likely to strike a chord. One of the good ways of giving and getting publicity is through the stars of the silver screen or sportspersons. The words of praise for the state and its people coming from the superstar of Bollywood, Amir Khan, who frequented Assam and Arunachal Pradesh during the last couple of years, would help dispel doubts about the State’s people and their attitude.
Assam is known for its quality tea and wildlife, mainly for the one-horned rhinos. Assam could have been a cherished destination with proper publicity and availability of infrastructure but the statistics on tourist visits to the State would bear a narrative that would involve disappointment at the low turnout of tourists-international or domestic.
The reason can be attributed to the lack of publicity and dearth of information about the region to prospective visitors from the country and abroad. The brochures and information booklets on Assam are not handy even at the five star hotels of the metropolitan cities and the tourist information bureaus are not adequately fed with the required information about Assam. The previous governments did precious little for promoting the State as a tourist destination. In contrast to this, two other States from the North-east, Sikkim and Meghalaya, have greater turnouts of tourists in comparison to Assam because of the efficient machinery towards making information available to prospective tourists and infrastructure to attract and accommodate them.
The publicity accorded by a superstar or two from the film world will no doubt act positively to arouse curiosity about the region but to fill up the gap between expectations of a particular tourist and the available tourism facility is of serious concern.
There are too many negative circumstances which will require great effort, determination and energy on the part of the Government and tourism promoting agencies to arrest and improve. Tourism is not only about beautiful tourist spots with hills, waterfalls and wildlife sanctuaries but also good roads, transport, accommodation to suit the wallets of travellers of different income groups and food of their choice are the most rudimentary necessities. If one is to ask if all these requirements are there at hand with Assam tourism, the answer will be a big No.
Professionalism is still a non starter in the matter of up to date information in regard to the wherewithal of any destination in Assam. The overall image of the State abroad and Outside the State is not too encouraging. And not very wrongly so, because the State it appears is widely known for its multiple insurgent groups, bandhs, road blockades and the likes; here, various groups declare a bandh or a blockade at the drop of a hat. The tourists travel with a pre-laid out schedule and an unexpected bandh/road blockade no doubt works as a spoiler. The bandh culture has to be dealt with sternly to make the tourism dream a reality.
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